Usually electronic DJ’s and producers move in the spheres of house and techno and don’t want to be associated with pop music. Not so Disclosure, consisting of Guy and Howard Lawrence, two brothers who were born and raised in suburban Surrey, South England. The break of genre conventions has become a hallmark of the duo – and in the end has also created a fresh perspective on electronic music. Disclosure’s debut album ‚Settle‘ topped the charts in 2013, won various accolades and refreshed the scene with its injection of pop and musicality. “It’s not just musicality,” they say. “It’s songwriting in its classic form, songs you can play on the piano.”
How did you get interested in electronic music ? Was there a proper music scene in your hometown Surrey?
Howard: Not in Surrey. It was in a town nearby, at the time when Dubstep came out. We heard about Dubstep really early in 2007, before it got big. Back then we think it was its best, its purest form, before it became this aggressive kind of music.
Guy: We got into it, because we were looking for something fresh and new. Dubstep was the most forward thinking thing in the UK at this time. Also Grime, it was amazing. People started to experiment with more melodies, sampling chords and jazz and giving a twist on it, such as James Blake or Mount Kimbie. We thought that we should try something like that, but we always wanted to write a real song over it. That is how the pop influence came back. I think we were always supposed to write full songs and not just instrumental, clubby music.
Where did you get your skills in electronic music?
Guy: I was playing drums since I was three, Howard played bass since he was six and played piano and guitar as well. Playing was always the main thing. Since our parents have been musicians, growing up was actually always being the best player we ever could.
Howard: I think the best way to learn how to write songs is actually learning how to play different songs.
Guy: Yeah. Learning to produce electronic music was just practising pretty much. We had ‚music technology‘ at college, there we learned the basics. And I think we’re still learning, which is the fun of it.
Where did you have your first gigs?
Guy: The first DJ set was in London at ‚The Lock Tavern‘ in Camden. It was pretty rubbish, because we just played songs without mixing. Then the first live show was at ‚The Old Blue Last‘ in Shoreditch. We played five of our own songs and afterwards the crowd screamed ‚We want more!‘ and we were like ‚We don’t have anymore.‘ Good show, though!
What about the moniker Disclosure and your signature scribble face?
Howard: It’s a really boring story! We were making a MySpace page when we’d finished making our first two songs. We wanted to put them online so we needed a name of the page. Guy was filling out his car insurance and it said “terms of disclosure” and he was like, that’ll do. Quite inspiring (laugh).
Guy: The scribble face, too, is kind of a happy accident. We needed some artwork for those first two songs and one of our manager’s friends was an art student. She drew this face and we were like, that’s really cool! We didn’t really know if we wanted to be anonymous or to tell people who we were yet so we thought we’d just not put our own face on it for now. Just in case. That’s why we used the face, and then came around to do another song and we didn’t have money to buy any more artwork so we just used it again with different colours, and later again with different colours. Then we started working with singers and the first time we worked with this one singer, I don’t know why I did it, but I put the scribble on her face too and people thought, oh yeah I can see the connection, and now every time we work with a singer we put it on their face. It became more of a logo than artwork so now people know it’s Disclosure just with the face, which is what we wanted to do.
For the listeners who are familiarising themselves with Disclosure. Which one(s) of your tracks would you recommend they start with?
Guy: We did a remix for Jessie Ware once (2012’s “Running”) and that’s what got us signed to our label. It was kind of the first time when we were working with full vocals and a track that’s got a lot of radio play. So I’d say start with that because that’s the start of big things for us. Then maybe “Latch” with Sam [Smith] because it’s probably our biggest song and people know Sam.
Howard: A song off this album we recommend would probably be “Magnets” which we did with Lorde.
Guy: The song’s different. It’s kind of about what we wanted to do with the second album, which was less house and more different vibes that still sound like us.
The EDM industry is bigger than ever, becoming more and more saturated in a sense. How do you differentiate your music and sets from other acts out there?
Guy: For me, the music just speaks for itself. It doesn’t sound like other people’s music in EDM. It also depends on what you call EDM, because it’s such a massive term now. In the UK, EDM means Avicii, David Guetta, Calvin Harris and all that explosive sound whereas in America it also means us, and probably even James Blake and anyone making electronic music, which is technically correct. I think for us EDM is kind of that really loud and more aggressive-sounding stuff whereas our music is a little bit more jazzy, a little bit more chill. And it’s based on house music so it’s not as “electro” as that stuff. So, musically, it already sounds different. For the live show, it’s easy, really. We’re DJ-ing here in Bangkok but we do a full live show. We play like a band, using instruments like bass guitar, guitar, drums, keyboards, and we sing so it’s going to be like watching a band, not like watching a DJ. I think we associate ourselves more with acts like The Chemical Brothers or even The Prodigy who are musically different from us but are like a band. So that’s how we get away from the DJ side of things because our main thing is the live show.
You guys are really hard working, you’re touring all the time. How do you deal with life on the road?
There’s definitely parts that can be tough. The hardest part is probably getting very minimal amounts of sleep. That can be pretty bad for your health. Other than that, it’s not that bad. We’re very lucky to be doing what we’re doing. The way we always describe it now is that you spend 90% of your time doing nothing, being awake and being moved around – which is horrible. Then you spend 10% of your time doing something which is so unbelievably amazing that it makes the rest of it worth it.